On a recent visit with my Occupational Therapist a small round object popped off her wrist watch, falling to the floor.. As she was picking it up and replacing it on her watch, curiosity got the best of me. As if it was any of my business, I had to ask, “What was that?” She readily responded that it was was inscribed with 1 Thessalonians 5:16, “Rejoice always”. She continued by telling me that every time she looks at her watch she is reminded to “Rejoice always”. Wow! What a neat reminder! I cannot help but believe that the Lord popped that simple little reminder off her watch, at that precise moment in time, to also serve as a reminder to me. “Rejoice always!”
Rejoicing! What a wonderful emotion that is! But, how often do we actually rejoice over something? What does it take to cause us to jump up up and down with joy? As I was pondering instances that cause great rejoicing, I began visualizing scenes at various sports venues filled with rabid fans, all erupting with unbelievable joy when the home team scores. Team mascots race around the arena waving banners in victorious jubilation. Whole crowds are standing, flailing their arms wildly in the air and cheering with all their might! The noise is wonderfully deafening. I must admit, it’s really exciting when I am privileged to be in attendance at such events and experiencing such exuberant feelings with them.
On a more personal note, I will never forget the joyous scene at our house many, many years ago when the news of Hitler’s suicide reached us. I can still see my dad racing home from his Naval Base, nearly blowing the door off the hinges as he entered and jumping headlong into the bed laughing with joy. Of course Mom and I jumped in with him; all three of us laughing and crying and hugging—sharing that joyous moment with him. It was, and always will be, a highlight of my life.
As I was reliving that joyous day in our lives, I was suddenly compelled to wonder, “Where was the joy on the day before we received that wonderful news?” ”Where was the joy when my dad received that dreaded letter that began with, ““Greeting… you are ordered to report for induction….”? “Where was the joy as my mom and I tearfully waved goodbye to him as his bus rolled out of sight?” I must admit, the thought of those sad and lonely days brought no joy into our lives. There was nothing about that series of events that that would cause us to rejoice. We could only pray that that terrible war would soon end and he could return safely back home to us.
As I assess my life through the last 50 years hereto, I have been joyfully blessed. God gave me a beautiful wife and daughter with whom to share my life and it’s been a wonderful life. She was a widowed mother when we began our courtship, and as a result, many of our dates were threesomes. I remember the joy I experienced at our first kiss. I remember an even greater joy when we shared our ‘I do’s’. We’ve been a close knit family from day one. However, during these last few years my joy has suffered a serious blow insofar as my dear wife, my soul mate, has been stricken with incurable dementia. I can only weep as I helplessly watch that ruthless thief slowly stealing her brain cells one by one, leaving her mind and body wasting away into oblivion. Although she still lives with me in our home, I feel I am living virtually alone. I find it near impossible to view her current plight with joy.
And yet, through all our trials, the Scriptures exhort us to. “Rejoice always”! Wow! How is that possible? Rejoicing during all our trials? Rejoicing during our sufferings? Rejoicing during the sufferings of our loved ones? Rejoicing when we lose a parent—or sibling—or child? How can we find joy in any and all situations, no matter how stressing they may be? That seems impossible! Nevertheless, that’s what He asks of us.
To answer such daunting questions we must also realize those trials are not the only things going on in our lives during those stressful days. We are not necessarily required to rejoice over our trials; but If we pay attention, there is nearly always something else for which we can rejoice during our trials. We are never left to suffer alone. We have a constant companion who promised to never leave us nor forsake us (1 Kings 8:57, Psalm 27:9, Hebrews 13:5). In my case He is continually reminding me of His presence by doing little favors to bring joy into my life. These seemingly insignificant little favors serve to take my mind off the trials and give me reason to rejoice. Our loving God certainly knows how to lift my spirits.
I am strangely reminded of His ever presence in my life by our little pet poodle. She never lets me out of her sight. When I take a seat in my recliner, she is right there to share it with me; when we sit down for a meal, she curls up between my feet; she even curls up between my feet when I am sitting on the potty. During extended hours when I am working at the computer, she drags her bed into the office and curls up on it right beside me for the duration. She rarely, if ever, has a bad day. She even shows me how to rejoice each time our daughter visits us. All I have to say is, “There’s Darlene!” and she starts running and jumping toward the door, squealing with joy all the way. She gets so excited I sometimes fear she’s gonna have a heart attack.
Oddly enough, we are rarely like that; we seem to reserve our overflowing emotions of joy such as that for special days and special events. But, in order to live abundant lives, we should strive to make all our days special days. And we can accomplish that l if we will always simply remember Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (NASB).” According to that, no matter how dire—how hopeless our situations may seem at the time, our awesome God will cause them to work together for good. Thus it is our privilege to claim that promise—hold on to it with both hands, and rejoice in the fact that all our stories will eventually have a fairy tale ending. That should give us cause to ‘Rejoice always!” Heaven awaits!